Earlier this year, one of the biggest names in high performance turbochargers, Turbonetics, Inc., was acquired by Wabtec, an international giant with connections to the industrial, railroad, and transit segments of the market. Earlier still, Wabtec had added Napier Turbochargers to their portfolio. So what does that mean to you and I?
Well, when a company that makes high performance automotive turbochargers suddenly has access to both greater resources and a wealth of additional technical know-how to add to its already vast knowledge base, interesting things start to happen…
The turbocharger you see above, with a normal-sized business card perched in its gaping maw to give it some scale, is a Napier FJ-frame type 289, and the power it can support isn’t rated in horsepower – it’s measured in megawatts! This is actually on the small side of their product range, typically boosting things like marine diesel engines. So why does that matter to car enthusiasts?
Well, you see, in the world economy, having a slightly less efficient turbo on your container ship means burning more fuel, and burning more fuel might add a fraction of a cent to getting each individual widget from one side of the planet to another. Those fractions can add up to millions when you consider how much moves every day across the globe, and so there is a strong incentive to build cutting edge aerodynamics into these mammoth turbines.
Access to that knowledge is already bearing fruit at Turbonetics, where the new TNX line incorporates a clean-sheet design when it comes to aerodynamics, on top of state-of-the-art dual ceramic ball bearing construction. But lest you think that all the attention is being paid to the shiny new toys, you should also consider the fact that Turbonetics has just developed a new T4 housing that incorporates an internal wastegate with multiple actuator mounting options.
Sure, it’s not in-your-face like a turbo that could, well, swallow your face, but when your favorite go-fast shop is able to build a turbo system that fits the engine bay better and installs with 40% fewer bad words released because of this compact but potent new turbo housing, you’ll see that sometimes small is beautiful, too.